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Pro-Choice

Let your employees help choose the company's office equipment.

Need a new copier, fax machine or other piece of office equipment? Before you buy, get input from the people who will actually be using the machines--better yet, let them be involved in the purchase process.

"An end user will have a very intimate knowledge of the applications a business uses to accomplish its goals," says Michelle Brown, an account manager with Xerox in Salt Lake City. "Most office equipment today is richly featured and multifunctional, and the people who use the equipment know what they need, what they'd like to have and what's necessary in the business."

Giving your employees a say in the choice of equipment not only means you'll be more efficient in your purchases, but you may even see a drop in the total cost of ownership (hardware, supplies and labor) of the equipment. And that's not the only advantage: Your workers will likely appreciate having input--it may even boost their productivity and loyalty, says Brown.

She recommends allowing employees to speak openly with sales representatives about what they're doing in their jobs and what they need. Also, give them a chance to actually use the equipment before you buy--even if it means a trip to the supplier's showroom. And if salespeople are unwilling to speak with
your employees and properly demo the equipment, don't buy from them, advises Brown, because they're probably not interested in selling you what you really need.

If you make a decision to purchase something other than what the end users want, take the time to explain your rationale and reinforce your appreciation of their opinions. That small step goes a long way to making workers feel appreciated.


Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 13 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Pro-Choice.

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